East Con Fire Tax raises more questions than answers

The East Contra Costa Fire District is asking for a new added tax that is said by proponents to increase service models, add equipment, upgrade stations, put paramedics on engines, and add personnel. The cost to taxpayers is an extra $197.00 for each parcel of land owned. Con Fire is also asking for a new tax for Antioch. That tax is for $97.00. Both of the Districts are dependant districts of Contra Costa County and ultimately run by the Board of Supervisors.The focus here is the East County Fire tax and the questions that arise as to why this tax is written the way it is.

1. Why there is an escalation clause that has no ending to it? Why?

2. The tax at first asked for an annual 5% increase. Now it is down to 3%. Why?

3. Is any part of this tax earmarked for paramedics on engines when the district already pays a separate tax for specialized paramedics driving special QRV vehicles over and above ambulances?

4. How can there be an $11 million dollar surplus in year five and an $11 Million dollar deficit in year 11 when the tax has an escalation clause and prop 13 increases?

5. Why doesn’t the Board of Supervisors create a new re-organized County Fire for a final solution instead of all these wasted studies?

And the $64,000 question…could it be politics and special interests are the reason for the new tax and not an actual necessity?

While I have my own questions, I am sure district property owners have their own questions. I encourage everyone to attend one of the Town Hall Meetings schedule thru March so that our community can get the facts we need to help improve fire safety in East Contra Costa

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Comments

  1. John says

    @Bill
    The Board of Supervisors is the final responsibility for the ECCFPD until this dependant district meets the requirements of the Knox-Cortese Act. I do not know who is telling you different but I gave you a county phone number to verify. Use it instead of the hearsay you have been relying on. You can talk joint powers all you want it does not change the actual responsible government agency, the Board of Supervisors. They will be the ones getting sued if a lawsuit is brought for anything.
    I never said POCs were the sole reason for 1990. It was the public that pressured the politicians to keep from that re-organization due to the community support of POC’s.
    As far as some of the other comments here, they maybe forward and outspoken. Bill, as you and I have opinions so does others. It doesn’t mean I agree with the hosers comment but the commenter does show passion with his/her feelings and I’m sure believes what they wrote as I believe this entire tax is about unions and politicians.
    To comment about diluting the fire districts into one new county fire would be extensive. The BOS can do this as they have the ultimate power as shown when they combined the three east county fire districts. Mary Piepho allowed the elimination of POC’s after the BOS voted for a combination district in about 2002 during the formation of ECCFPD. I have extensive documentation proving this. With enough pressure from the public they can also either allow the POC’s to return or create a new county fire district. When a proposed tax for fire can come out without the special interest and political sauce let off, I will take a serious positive look at it. The way this one has been served, it needs to go back to the chef for a new recipe. I do not dig deep in my pockets to satisfy special interest fluff. I’m sorry but that’s how I feel.

  2. DJ says

    Claire, Your beef with Firemen, (hosers as you call them) seems like it hinges more on a personal level with you and has way less to do with the actual budget issues faced by this small fire district. Any past credibility that you have had in past posts on this site are clearly outweighed by your obvious hate for firemen. I feel truly sorry for people like you that feel the need to attack individuals instead of attacking issues. I have never once read in your post what level of compensation that you feel is fair for a fireman. I am no genius, but at 50K per year these guys gross $4100 per month, or a little more than $17 dollars per hour, about what a checker at Safeway makes, unfortunately an 80% cut in pay is not going to solve this districts financial problems. 5 cents on the shrinking assessed tax dollar is not enough to pay the damn PG&E bill or put diesel in the trucks. I’m sorry, I forgot, you can’t be reasoned with, you want to stand up on your soap box and scream the loudest to drown out any opinion (look at your response to anyone who posts anything) that isn’t aligned with yours. I say to you: grow up! Offer solutions instead of criticisms. As a republican I don’t favor any new taxes, and would rather see existing tax dollars go to public safety, schools, and roads instead of funding college for illegals or paying welfare for people that refuse to get jobs. My problem is you! People like you are everything that is wrong with America. You sit behind your computer screen with no accountability for what you post! Please, don’t do something contructive with your time, like volunteer at your church, a school, or hospital. We would much rather have you continue to offer up useless rants for us all to read

  3. Bill says

    The original piece contains some inaccurate information with respect to governance, but the comments from residents on what they expect are a little shocking.

    The Contra Costa Board of Supervisors does not run this district. It’s operating under a Joint Powers Authority and perhaps the author is taking that term too literally? Quickly on some of the other points……escalation is to address rising costs, especially health care which is the single biggest cost driver for all levels of government in this country. This should be obvious. There is no tax for QRVs in any part of the county. If the author insists one exists they should have no problem identifyng a document which defines said tax. There is no $11M surplus in year 5. That dollar amount is called reserves, something which any properly funded government agency like this needs to have. The district is going to have what amounts to zero reserves in July of this year. And the reason the Board of Supervisors couldn’t form a new countywide district is probably twofold. In some areas it’s simply not needed because they have adequate services now. San Ramon Valley, Orinda and Kensington come to mind. Second, it’s politically impossible.

    For people commenting, are you really just going to vote this down and demand or expect that the district suck it up and continue existing service with the revenue they have? That would amount to a 40% chop in salaries overnight for an already underpaid staff. Plus built-in salary reductions indefinitely as unconrollable costs outstrip recovery in property values-revenue. Does that seem realistic to anyone?

    Would like to hear the CoCoTax view of the issue. They are clearly watching this and have been oddly silent to this point. Including no public comment that I have seen on the recent Grand Jury report.

    Seems people want to argue minutia. When the reality is absent new revenue some pretty huge cuts will be mandated in just a few months. I see disaster looming with only 3 fire stations for an area of this size.

    • says

      Are you really just going to vote this down and demand or expect that the district suck it up and continue existing service with the revenue they have?

      YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES!

      Government has repeatedly proved that it is unable and/or unwilling to prudently spend TAXPAYERS’ money.

      Public safety agencies have repeatedly used TAXPAYERS’ money to provide OBSCENE compensation and pensions to their greedy, thuggish members.

      Consequently, for the remainder of my life, I will ALWAYS VIGOROUSLY oppose any proposal for increases in taxes.

      YOU ABUSED THE PUBLIC’S TRUST.

      Stop whining.

      Time to reap what you have sown.

      40% pay cuts NOW!

    • John says

      @Bill
      The BOS is the ultimate responsibility for ECCFPD. You can verify this by calling Contra Costa LAFCO. The ECCFPD is NOT independent by Cal. government code law. You can view the law by looking up the Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Act and reading the requirements of creating an independent district.
      The BOS could make a new dependant fire district with the ones they have now. They did that eight years ago combining Oakley/East Diablo/Bethel Island. Your comment is wrong.
      The QRV’s are paid for through contract negotiations that are funded by ( look at your tax bill unless you’re a renter) . EMERGENCY MED B DY (925) 646-4690 Call the number to verify or call the County Health Services Director.
      The 11 million dollar reserve would amount to 50% of the budget. That’s a surplus in any book. More importantly where does the 22.8 million go to in the years 5 to 11? That’s 22.8 million over and above the income ! Something is really wrong with that document and I’ve yet to hear an explanation.
      I do not think that the firefighters salary should be cut at all. This tax is not suppose to be about firefighter salaries. I do not know why you bring this up. It is very apparent that this entire tax is politically motivated by the union and the Supervisor who failed to do something while she had ample time.
      The County in about 1990 attempted to combine all the east county fire districts with con fire. To say it can’t be done means you have no knowledge of the history of our fire districts in East Contra Costa. The only reason it was not done at that time is because the communities overwhelming support for POC’s at that time. The POC’s are gone now so there is nothing holding the Supervisors back to create a new county fire. The reason for creating a new county fire district is the very same reason that created ECCFPD.
      I hope this helps with your misunderstanding of what is really going on and what really can be done to fix it. Contact your County Supervisor and ask her why she dropped the ball at the last minute on East County residents. I blame Supervisor Mary Piepho for the situation we are in today. She needs to fix it without asking us for more money. The only logical solution that will satisfy the union she is beholding to is a new county fire district.

    • Bill says

      John, your abreviated history of fire services in the County should tell you one thing: a unified fire district is not possible because of interests pulling several different directions. I don’t believe POCs were the sole reason in 1990. Nor would it be the any single reason that would derail the idea today. It would be a mountain of them. Why would residents of the 2 districts mentioned earlier stand by or even vote to dilute their resources and supplement you and I? It doesn’t make sense even with basic logic.

      It just dawned on me, are you the same John who authored this article? You speak with similar misunderstandings about JPAs. The BoS does not have the ultimate authority here. If you’re voting based on the idea they could or will come in to fix things after a defeat, you are setting yourself up for major pain. If you are that person and you are from Knightsen, you should keep one fact first and foremost in your mind:

      A failed measure means your closest fire station is closing.

      Some of the other commentary here shows this isn’t really a serious discussion of the issues. When people start teeing off on public employees in that fashion and expect professional fire fighters to work for minimum wage, it’s no longer serious or meaningful dialog.

      Let’s hope the voters get better information between now and June, if that is when they decide to have the ballot.

  4. DJ says

    Claire- These “greedy hosers” as you call them, that work for East Contra Costa make far less than other firemen in the area. In fact here is a quote from the LAFCO MSR: “East Contra Costa FPD, CAL FIRE and EBRPD pay substantially less than the
    median; East Contra Costa FPD firefighters earn $53,000 annually, and CAL FIRE and EBRPD pay
    less than $50,000 annually. AMR paramedics with five years experience earn $78,000 annually.” Claire, once again you have no facts to back up your baseless inflammatory comments. I would encourage you to get educated and read the LAFCO report.
    Kris and John, my question to both of you is: do you think that 5 – 9 cents per tax dollar is obscene or excessive amounts to run a fire department? Most if not all Fire Departments in california receive double that amount. Their budget is based on that area being Walnut Orchards, Corn Fields and rural farms, not the growth that the far east has seen in the past twenty years. These firemen are not making the big bucks that are printed in the newspaper, and frankly if people that live out there want the fire protection, they are going to have to pay for it. If not, ask the Marsh Creek residents what its like to have a fire station closed and get notices that property insurance is cancelled or tripled in price, not a great option if you ask me.

    • says

      DJ,

      The shortest giant in a room of giants is still a giant.

      ALL Greedy Hosers are OVERPAID.

      Arguing that one sub-group is not overpaid because that sub-group is the least overpaid sub-group in the overpaid group is illogical, idiotic, and hilarious.

  5. John says

    I probably will not be writting an argument against the tax.
    I also will not support the new tax currently the way it is written. There is too much underlying special interest influence that needs to be removed from the language. The money being asked for will not be well spent in my opinion.

    • Bill says

      It should be obvious to anyone with half a brain that you cannot serve a district as large as this one with only 3 stations and maintain any reasonable response time. But that is the most likely scenario that will play out if the measure fails.

      Based on that, Ms. Hunt, I was deeply disturbed to read in the Contra Costa Times a couple of days back that you and the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association is recommending a defeat of this ballot measure. Correct me if I am wrong, but you do not live in the district and as such would not suffer the consequences of the reduction in services.

      I have a real problem with such a dangerous display of ignorance about the rather obvious consequences. I have a problem with an organization such as yours who wields great influence in this County with bodies such as the Grand Jury who put out a report a few weeks ago. What do I mean by that, you might ask. What other citizen organization gets audience with such as important body shortly after their sitting each July? Do I, as a private citizen get offered to sit down with them to verbalize my wish list for County issues they might take up? 2 main issues they have taken up since their sitting are the Mount Diablo Healthcare issue and this fire district. Both of which you have taken a stance against. One would have to be a fool to accept that as coincidence.

      In the Spring of last year you spent some time speaking to Chief Henderson about the finances of the County. Surely in that effort you recognized the serious CAPEX needs of this district. To include a fire station on Bethel Island that is unsafe to live in. Other stations that are outdated and in need of retrofit to house modern equipment. But in your blind Jarvis ideology you are now advocating that far East County simple settle for a decaying and substandard fire district. You’re willing to advocate a position that puts my family in danger and creates a staffing model(2 men engines) that puts our fire fighters in danger as well. That is irresponsible on all counts.

      I also have a problem with the fact that your CCTA organization is mostly funded by large corporations, to included Chevron as one of the largest. Your personal compensation as a DIrector of CCTA originates with that company. In my own symbolic private protest, I will no longer buy Chevron products. Why should I support a company who by proxy through your efforts is putting my family and my community in unnecessary peril? I ask that others consider this fact as well.

      Jumping forward to July 2012, if the CCTA has their way we will be forced to a 3 station model. Morgan Territories, Bethel Island and Knightsen will certainly lost their stations. Brentwood will likely lose one of theirs. If a structure fire takes place at any periphery of the district requiring 5 engines to respond, you will have a city of 50,000+ left without a single fire engine protecting them. Bethel Island also loses their QRV protection since the agreement is the units must be housed in an active fire station.

      This is what you, Ms. Hunt, are saying that East County should be willing to accept for the sake of about 50 cents per day in savings. How can you advocate such an irresponsible position? Since it doesn’t affect your househould or your family, you simply do not care?

      I think you and your organization owe it to the citizens of East County to announce who you are collaborating with to write the opposition statement for the ballot. You claim you are all about transparency. So let’s see it. The citizens deserve to know who is putting them at great risk with this horrible display of reckless ignorance.

      This is influence peddling at its worst through your use of the Grand Jury to carry your agenda. But do to it and create potential kaos with a public safety service is reprehensible on the part of CCTA.

    • John says

      Mr. Bill,
      It is very obvious that you have been have been affected by “the sky is falling” sale of this new tax. The CoCoTax and Kris Hunt of whom I have never met are right on target to oppose this new tax. The reasons are many to vote this down. Bill, your .50 a day is so off base. The district is 11 million in debt before the tax. The blame for the situation we are in has nothing to do with CCTPA. This problem is the direct result of the BoS (specifically Supervisor Piepho’s lack of action for seven years) and the union. As far as you 2 per engine is concerned, this has been the norm since East Diablo Fire was established over twenty years ago. The only difference then was Oakley Fire has 75 paid on call firefighters to supplement Brentwood, Byron, and Discovery Bay. There was no deficit spending until the union with the backing of the local supervisor were allowed to run off all but one of the paid on calls. As far as Kris Hunt not living in the district, that has no merit as the CCTPA is basing their decision on a new tax benefit if any. I live in the district along with family members. I agree to vote no on this new tax for several reasons. I hope when CCTPA writes a rebuttal to the new tax it includes but not limited to these facts;
      1) There is no need to pay a new tax for paramedics as we already pay taxes for them.
      2) ECCFPD is $ 11,000.000.00 in the red that the district owes for benefits today before this tax.
      3) According to Anticipated Service Model costs, there is a $4,800,000.00 dollar discrepancy that the district can’t or will not explain in year 5.
      4) The District is not truly independent per LAFCO and this new tax would only help bail out the county responsibility.
      5) The total lack by the BOS and District to try other options such as Cal Fire and Volunteer Back up Firefighters.
      6) The lack of the union and district to reform the shifts and pension costs that this tax will not resolve. This is shown in the anticipated service model at year 11 when the district is shown to have even less money in the bank than today ( $339,919.00). This does not include millions of dollars in the unfunded debt for pensions same as today.
      In conclusion, This type of service model that we have today in ECCFPD is unsustainable even with the new tax. Ultimately a change in personnel costs with this union, a different union, a combination department, a new county fire district, or contract out to another source is needed for this district to succeed. Therefore, even with the long term service model plan provided by ECCFPD, the district will fail again in eleven years. Since the union and the politicians refuse to implement alternatives, it is up to us the voters to force them to keep our financial house in order with the same services we have had for the last twenty years without a new tax.

  6. says

    NO MORE MONEY FOR GREEDY HOSERS WHO HAVE EXPLOITED THE TAXPAYERS.

    NO MORE OBSCENE COMPENSATION FOR GREEDY HOSERS.

    NO MORE OBSCENE PENSIONS FOR GREEDY HOSERS. (P.S. pay the full cost of your own damn retirement plan like the sucker taxpayers)

    PAY CUTS NOT SERVICE CUTS.

    PENSION CUTS NOT SERVICE CUTS.

    TAX CUTS NOT SERVICE CUTS.

    • DJ says

      sorry, wrong again, there will be service cuts. Claire, please tell us all what you think these greedy hosers should make??? I know you don’t want to answer. Your comments are like you say; “illogical, idiotic, and hillarious.”